"Prelude to War," Chapter I of Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series,
describes World War II as a battle between the "slave world" of fascism
and the "free world" of American liberty. In the "slave world," the
entire populations of Germany, Italy and Japan have been hoodwinked by
madmen, opportunists who capitalized on their people's desperation and
weakness to rise to power. These demagogues promised revenge for past
losses, and in the process convinced their people to give up their
rights and accept dictatorship. In the "free world," the principles of
equality, freedom, and liberty characterize the greatest leaders,
embodied in the works and words of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.
This freedom is a threat to the fascist dictators of the Axis powers,
who claim that democracy is weak and must be eradicated. The film
claims that the ultimate goal of the Axis powers is to enslave the
nations of the "free world," a desire made manifest in the Japanese
invasion of Manchuria and Mussolini's destruction of Ethiopia.
Reviewer:L Dubya -
May 24, 2010 Subject:
Why We Fought -- it is obvious to me
So tell me Eric, would you prefer speaking Japanese or German??
These films were for US soldiers training in boot camp. We also had similar training during Vietnam
There is a lack of such purpose as we have never seen today....
Our leaders should be ashamed of themselves
Reviewer:Eric Johnston -
March 6, 2009 Subject:
The value of propaganda
This series of films is propaganda. As an historical account, it is distorted in the sense that we can nowadays access broader truth. But these films are an integral part of history. They can inform us in an easily assimilable way about, for example, the approximate perspective from which many in the English-speaking world may have viewed the struggle, and of how the U.S. authorities evidently felt the millions of men conscripted into the fighting services needed to be imbued with a more offensive spirit. That this latter view was no doubt valid is borne out by US Army statistics of the proportion of soldiers who, while ready to risk their lives, would not shoot to kill. Changes in training considerably reduced this proportion by the time of the Vietnam War.
These films are an interesting example of the genre, and of the use of enemy newsreel footage.
The "Why We Fight" series presents the contemporary situation in a simple, one-sided manner. It is essentially white propaganda. "There can be no differentiation without contrast." See document at http://www.rainbowends.org/mmviii/agitprop.htm (intended to counterbalance the approach to journalism apparently inculcated by some Western trainers of Burmese political exiles).
The films necessarily contain inaccuracies of omission, but also some inaccuracies of fact.
"The Tanaka Memorial" was probably a forgery, possibly by the Chinese Communist Party, which was then controlled by the Comintern. However, it was widely believed at the time to be genuine, not least because it seemed to be confirmed by events.
Stalin's crimes are (understandably, in the circumstances) ignored.
British radar gets no mention: it was highly classified, and fortunately the Luftwaffe failed to appreciate its full significance.
British bombing of Germany during the early stages of the War is said to target only military objectives, although there must have been plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Though nationalism remains a potent force, the future of mankind requires that we go beyond narrow parochialism to give priority to human rights. The Second World War, which produced The Atlantic Charter, was perhaps the first major conflict where the human rights of all peoples was an important motivation for many of the combatants.